Parents will come out of the crisis poorer

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Douglas Guest looks at what needs to happen now to create a better society post-Covid #NeverMoreNeeded
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3rd July 2020 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

Just under half the families coming to us for support had poor mental health and were socially isolated. And that was before coronavirus.

Evidence is emerging that many parents will come out of this crisis not only poorer, but with greater mental health challenges than ever before. Anecdotal evidence from Home-Start staff and volunteers, supporting our families during this crisis, highlights this upward trend already.

Our network of 31 local Home-Starts moved quickly to support families. Our lifeline of family support services across Scotland normally comprise of home-visits and groups but we, like many other charities, had to adapt to life under lockdown.

Scotland’s network of Home-Starts helps over 3,000 families, with over 6,500 children every year, supporting parents with young children and pregnant woman who are struggling, from isolation, poor mental health, insecure housing, trauma, abuse, loss and also those navigating a complex and challenging asylum process.

But this work is usually done through face-to-face visits and local groups, run by trained staff, and over 1,500 volunteers across the country. So managers at Home-Starts had to come up with new and innovative ways of supporting the families they work with, including Facebook cookery classes, one-to-one and group support sessions online, dad’s groups, virtual art competitions, and weekly story telling sessions.

Now, as lockdown begins to ease and people’s eyes turn towards the future, what now?

Douglas Guest

Douglas Guest

I have deep concerns around long-term funding, as I am sure many do. Our services are described as ‘lifesaving’ and ‘life-changing’ – and for the 94% of parents who come through out services and report being more able to cope with their mental health and feeling less isolated that change is real.

Now, with an expected rise in demand for our services – which as well as helping families on the ground, also meet strategic goals around family support in the Independent Care Review and the Perinatal Mental Health agenda – how do we carry on ensuring there is the funding to meet that demand?

Our capacity to respond will be dependent on the investment in excellent community-based services that can work with statutory bodies and other charities.

We also need to see a shift in the way we view things in this country. We want to see a post Covid world where:

 Wellbeing is placed above the economy and all sectors take equal opportunity to ensure everyone is treated with humanity, humility and compassion.
Universal family support is essential so that services that are post code lotteries for its beneficiaries are a thing of the past.
Parents aren’t stigmatised in asking for help. We need to dive deep into issues of stigma and how this affects us all in accessing services and seeking support.

We have a real chance to explore the values of society, flatten the curve of inequality and poverty that existed pre-crisis and invest in grass-roots universal services that people feel empowered to access. Let’s seize that with both hands and create a positive world for future generations.

Douglas Guest is acting director of Home-Start Scotland